Mod is a subculture that began in the United Kingdom in the 1960s and spread, in varying degrees, to other countries and continues today on a smaller scale. Focused on music and fashion, the subculture has its roots in a small group of London-based stylish young men in the late 1950s who were termed modernists because they listened to modern jazz, although the subculture expanded to include women.
Significant elements of the mod subculture include fashion (often tailor-made suits); music (including soul, ska, and R&B); and motor scooters (usually Lambretta or Vespa). The original mod scene was associated with amphetamine-fuelled all-night dancing at clubs.
In England during the early to mid 1960s, mods often engaged in brawls with rockers, which led to many news articles.The mods and rockers conflict led sociologist Stanley Cohen to use the term "moral panic" in his study about the two youth subcultures, which examined media coverage of the mod and rocker riots in the 1960s. In the mid-to-late 1960s, the conflicts between mods and rockers subsided, as several rock bands, including The Who and the Small Faces adopted a mod style. London became synonymous with fashion, music, and pop culture in these years, a period often referred to as "Swinging London."
There was a mod revival in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s, which was followed by a mod revival in North America in the early 1980s, particularly in southern California, Vancouver, and Toronto.
The term mod derives from modernist, a term used in the 1950s to describe modern jazz musicians and fans.This usage contrasted with the term trad, which described traditional jazz players and fans. The 1959 novel Absolute Beginners describes modernists as young modern jazz fans who dress in sharp modern Italian clothes. The novel may be one of the earliest examples of the term being written to describe young British style-conscious modern jazz fans. This usage of the word modernist should not be confused with modernism in the context of literature, art, design and architecture. From the mid-to-late 1960s onwards, the mass media often used the term mod in a wider sense to describe anything that was believed to be popular, fashionable or modern.
Paul Jobling and David Crowley argue that the definition of mod can be difficult to pin down, because throughout the subculture's original era, it was "prone to continuous reinvention."They claim that since the mod scene was so pluralist, the word mod was an umbrella term that covered several distinct sub-scenes. Terry Rawlings argues that mods are difficult to define because the subculture started out as a "mysterious semi-secret world", which The Who's manager Peter Meaden summarised as "clean living under difficult circumstances
Coffee bars were attractive to British youths because, in contrast to typical pubs, which closed at about 11pm, they were open until the early hours of the morning. Coffee bars had jukeboxes, which in some cases reserved space in the machines for the customers' own records. In the late 1950s, coffee bars were associated with jazz and blues, but in the early 1960s, they began playing more R&B music. Frith notes that although coffee bars were originally aimed at middle-class art school students, they began to facilitate an intermixing of youths from different backgrounds and classes.At these venues, which Frith calls the "first sign of the youth movement", young people would meet collectors of R&B and blues records, who introduced them to new types of African-American music, which the teens were attracted to for its rawness and authenticity. As the mod subculture grew in London during the early-to-mid 1960s, tensions would often arise between the mods, often riding highly decorated motor scooters, and their main rivals, the rockers, a British subculture who favored rockabilly, early rock'n'roll, motorcycles and leather jackets, and considered the mods effeminate, because of their interest in fashion.Violent clashes would often ensue between the two groups.This period was later immortalized by songwriter Pete Townshend, in the Who's 1973 concept album, Quadrophenia.
However, after 1964, clashes between the two groups largely subsided, as mod expanded and came to be accepted by the larger youth generation in England as a symbol of all that was new.It was during this time that London became a mecca for rock music, with popular bands such as The Who and The Small Faces appealing to a largely mod audience,as well as the preponderance of hip fashions, in a period often referred to as Swinging London.